by Chris Rogers
The founder of the Holiday Lighted Parade, Cindy Westby of Goodview, is retiring from the parade committee after 11 years of organizing the event. Since it started in 2002, the parade has featured a variety of participants on floats decorated with Christmas lights. After the parade, there is a reception featuring games, food, and a silent auction. In its first two years, the parade raised funds for organizations who fight cancer. Since then contributions of money and food have benefited the 10 Days of Giving and the local food bank.
Westby started the parade in 2002 with help from other Goodview residents. They were inspired by Holidazzle, a lighted parade in downtown Minneapolis. “This started with a couple of neighbors saying, ‘We should have one of those lighted parades like they have in Minneapolis,’” four-year committee member Kim Troke said.
Each year, the committee volunteers write letters to local businesses, ask individuals for donations, and seek out participants and volunteers for the parade and reception. The volunteers are a mix of local folks, mostly from Goodview. “We come from all walks of life,” said three-year committee member Craig Mueller. Most of them, like Westby, have jobs, children or grandchildren, and busy lives.
Each year, Westby has led the charge, getting many of the donations. “Cindy’s a real go-getter,” Mueller said. “She’s tireless,” Troke said. “She stays on everybody. ‘Are you doing this? Are you getting donations? Are you getting silent auction stuff?’ You just know it’s so important to her. I just know that she’s going to miss it.”
“I love to give back to the community,” Westby said. “I love winter. I love the holidays, all the lights, and just to see the kids this time of year.”
It was tough getting enough people to participate and volunteer some years, Westby said, but “we always pull through with about 25 floats with a variety. We try to get a little of everything.”
The weather on the day of the parade was always a stress factor for Westby and the committee. “It can be huge, or just a smattering of people,” Troke said. In 2007, the parade had to be cancelled because of a blizzard. Last year, a snow storm “wreaked havoc” on the generators and lights at the parade, according to Troke.
Fundraising and finding time to fundraise have been perennial problems for the committee.
Asked if he would be returning to serve on the committee next year, Troke said he didn’t know. “[The parade] has so much potential, but when you have a zero-balance budget it’s very difficult, even though a lot of companies in Winona and in Goodview do step up and donate,” said Troke. “Cindy’s goal right from the beginning was that every penny goes to the cause. And we’ve always been proud of that. There’s not one penny that goes into starting next year’s [parade], and that might be the demise of it. It would be wonderful if a larger corporation would step in to save it, to oversee it, or sponsor it.”
Both Troke and Westby hope to step back from fundraising for the parade in order to spend more time with their families.
Westby thanked the Goodview and Winona area community for support, donations, and participation. She said that there is a potential successor to her role and that, “hopefully this will pull through and [the community] will be able to enjoy the event for years to come.”